As many of you know, I’ve said in the past that military life isn’t for everyone. Set aside the fact that is a very risky profession, there is more to it than just that. Living a military life means not having a permanent address so long as you’re employed; it also means having to go the extra length in planning a family and dealing with personal issues in a fast but rational manner. For this, I am posting the thoughts of a military wife on military life. I know the pros and cons of military life very well, but I think that a military wife is the perfect person to describe how evading the civilian life can be. Here are her thoughts.
Living military life as a military wife
I have been married to my husband, who is in the US Navy, for five years. I have many things to be thankful for in our marriage. For one, my husband has never been deployed. After finishing his C school he was at a shore command for nearly four years. After that time he applied for a college program and was accepted, so his job at this time is going to college full-time. He now only has a year left and it’s time to pick orders. This is where the fairy tale ends.
We had thought and researched and planned to choose Italy. So, when he filled out his dream sheet it included Europe. However, his chain of command rejected his first pick, so now we’re faced with a very hard decision. The options are to return to our last command where he would likely be deployed within a matter of months, a Marine billet, which would ensure deployment, or an isolated year-long, unaccompanied command. His job would keep him fairly safe, so Iraq’s threats aren’t really our concern, but we’re having our second child this fall and willingly sending my husband into harm’s way doesn’t make me feel very comfortable.
At this point, we’re thinking the one year, unaccompanied command is our best option because it keeps him out of Iraq and he would be able to choose better orders in just another year when we’re more likely to get what we want. The problem with this option is not seeing him for a year. By the time he would leave our children would be 3.5 and almost 1. It bothers me that we would be consciously making the decision for them to not see their father for a year. I feel guilty for that, but I’m just not sure what to do.
Sometimes I feel like this isn’t the life I want, that I’d rather us be a normal family that doesn’t have to deal with decisions like these. Many of the Navy wives I’ve met throughout the years share these same sentiments, but most are in financial positions that require their husbands to stay enlisted in order to make it. At this point the Navy doesn’t require its service members to take college classes to prepare them for separation and civilian life which means when they get out of the military they have few job prospects since so many military jobs are highly specialized for military functions. We are no longer faced with this predicament, but my husband now owes the Navy four years for his college time, so we have at least five more years of this life.
We are required to make decisions like this and also about many other issues many civilian parents take for granted. The next very trying decision is our children’s education. Most military families are uprooted every 3-4 years, if they’re lucky. This may not sound like it would be difficult to cope with, but most of the time your children aren’t not at convenient ages and grade-levels to the moves they’re faced with. For instance, 4 years is all the time you need for high school, but what if the four years ends just before his or her senior year? This is frequently the case. Also, when young children are just developing their social network and identity in elementary school they are taken away from all the familiarity and forced to start over. Some kids thrive in this environment, but many suffer. Already, my two-year-old has lost his first best friend to a military move.
How do we make the right decisions for our kids’ development? How do we tell them time and time again that we have to pack up and leave their friends just to make new ones that we’ll leave again in a few years or who might leave before us? How do we, in good conscience, send our spouses away for lengthy deployments with only hope that they’ll return? How can mothers be expected to serve as both parents for so long? How can some dads be expected to serve as both parents for so long?
This is the life we choose and thousands of couples succeed, so it can’t be impossible, but sometimes I yearn for the easier path, the 9-5 life and being settled down…. But this is the life we chose. Is job security really worth all of this? Is putting your life on the line worth all of this? I wonder if I’m cut out for this life, if I can fill the role that’s expected of me. It’s true: this life isn’t for everyone.